Needless to say, winning games in the NFL is really hard. Theoretically, the best path to win a lot of NFL games would be to have great players at every position as well as at each backup spot, but that isn’t realistic in a sport with a limited salary cap and draft resources given to each team. Accordingly, some players become increasingly important to a given team’s success. What may become obvious is that great players are very important, but to write an article that just lists a team’s best players to come away with the takeaway of “if they’re good then the team will be good” is rather boring as a general premise.
Instead, within this article, I will aim to identify New York Jets players who may be good but who also have some question marks that could limit their 2023 effectiveness. In a way, I think of these as the “lynchpins” of the 2023 season. If they play well, then good things should happen. If they don’t, then their struggles could sink the whole season.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers: This one may be a bit obvious: quarterbacks are by far the most important player on a team. For the Jets, they paid a very pretty penny both in draft capital and salary cap space to acquire whom they believe to be a fantastic NFL quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. However, in 2023, Rodgers was really more like a mediocre quarterback. Needless to say, while there is some uncertainty around the level of play the Jets will receive from Rodgers, the degree to which he’s closer to “excellent” rather than “okay” will have a lot to do with the degree to which the Jets are true Super Bowl contenders in 2023.
- Offensive Tackle Mekhi Becton: Three years ago it looked like the Jets had found a franchise tackle. However, in the two years since then that assumed franchise tackle has played under 100 snaps. At the current moment the New York Jets tackles are at best “so-so.” If Becton can return to form and pair with the generally considered high-floor guards and centers that the Jets have, then suddenly their line becomes rather good, with enough depth to allow extra attention to assist tackle Duane Brown if need be. However, if Becton isn’t good, then they’re likely playing offensive tackle Billy Turner or Max Mitchell, who lack any sort of track record of plus play in recent years. Needless to say, a Becton resurgence would go a long way towards solidifying the Jets as strong contenders for the 2023 Super Bowl.
- Linebacker C.J. Mosley: In the case of Mosley, his position as the Jets best coverage linebacker becomes extremely important for two reasons. One, the Jets corners are nothing short of superb, which gives quarterbacks a pretty strong reason to target linebackers and safeties. Two, the Jets second coverage linebacker will be either Quincy Williams or Jamien Sherwood, neither of whom have a history of success in the passing game. In a similar vein, the Jets current safeties lack a track record of strong coverage. If Mosley can cover at a high level (as he has in the past) then quarterbacks will be less able to target the middle of the defense for regular yards, lessening their effectiveness. However, if Mosley does not perform at a high level in coverage then this could leave the Jets very susceptible to the top-tier quarterbacks who are the primary roadblocks in their 2023 Super Bowl path.
- Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II: Jermaine Johnson was drafted in the first round in the 2022 NFL draft and fan expectations were quite high. While he didn’t play much in year 1, that appears to be changing in year 2. For the Jets, they have loaded up on edge rushers but lack another edge setter opposite edge rusher Carl Lawson who can perform well in the run game. If Jermaine Johnson can fill this role then this would allow them to slide defensive line Swiss army knife John Franklin-Myers back to the interior where they lack much depth. If Johnson cannot fill this run defender role then Franklin-Myers may have to play on the edge on early downs, necessitating more snaps from solid but unspectacular veteran options that the Jets have behind interior rushers Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers.
But these are only the guys who I think are especially critical to the 2023 New York Jets. What guys do you think I missed?